The world of independent video games ” aka indie games” gained popularity in the 2000s. However, indie games are far from new. The earliest video games in history were all independently designed, simply because there was no video game industry back then and there were no big publishers and retailers that controlled commercial game distributions. So what are indie games exactly? And why have they suddenly gained popularity?
What Are Indie Games?
An indie game (also known as an independent video game) is a video game that is created with low budgets and without financial support from publishers. Indie games have seen a rise in mainstream popularity lately, primarily due to novel distribution methods and development tools. Here are a few characteristics of indie games:
- They are usually developed by individuals, small teams, or small independent companies. They can be produced by large organizations as long as they are producing something which is not mainstream and of lower quality
- Typically indie games are smaller than the mainstream titles
- Generally, indie game developers are not financially backed by video game publishers
- Generally, indie game producers have little to no budget available
- Being independent, indie game developers do not have any controlling interests from other parties and limitations on creativity. Hence, indie games are generally more innovative
- Smaller teams also enhance individual involvement and hence boost the innovation and creativity of the game
The Rise of Indie Games
Although Indie games started off with computer games, now they have begun to spread towards other consoles. Indie games have recently grown to become more and more successful and started competing with the major producers. The rise of technological enhancements has allowed independent game designers to create better games and to more easily get them into the hands of more and more players. Independent developers have also benefited from mobile gaming distribution platforms like Steam and app stores where games can be sold without a lot of overhead costs. In addition, the rise of digital distribution methods greatly increased market access of these games.
So why is digital distribution important?
The problem with retail methods that most developed publishers use is that there is limited shelf space window ( the publishers have about a month to get the game out and market). Another problem with retail distribution is the issue of used games being sold. All these issues can simply be avoided using digital distribution. Since Indie developers have little limitations from controlling interests, they can easily benefit from the use of digital distribution. Indie game developers have also in the past benefited by getting quick publicity with the help of social media platforms.
Indie game developers have produced several blockbuster games recently. Here are a few famous ones:
Famous Indie Games
Formats: PC, Xbox One
Release date: 2016
Although making a first-person shooter game is something that triple-A game developers are experts at, this is a very innovative first-person shooter game that was developed by a small and independent crew. The idea behind this game is that time only moves when you move. The art is splendid and the experience is very strategic and original
Formats: PlayStation 4, Microsoft Windows, XBox One
Release date: 2016
This is a game developed by Playdead. In Inside, the boy ( the main character) is running away from a group of men who, if you fail to stay out of their sight, will mercilessly kill you. The game is very suspenseful and does not reveal until the end why the boy is running away from these men. The game is a brilliant puzzle-solving game and has a scary, lifeless setting. It keeps the player totally immersed in the game leaving them begging for answers.
Formats: PC, XBox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation 3&4, Nintendo Switch
Release date: 2009
Minecraft is a sandbox video game created and designed by Swedish game designer Markus “Notch” Persson, and later fully developed and published by Mojang. The creative and building aspects of Minecraft allow players to build with a variety of different cubes in a 3D procedurally generated world. It is the ultimate example of a game where you can do anything. It gives you a set of tools and allows your imagination to do the rest, and it works!
Formats: PlayStation 3&4, PlayStation Vita,, PC, XBox 360, Xbox One
Release date: 2010
Limbo is a unique platformer with its haunting storyline. In this game, you play the boy, a child with glowing eyes who finds his sister in the game. The boy makes his way into a dangerous world full of giant spiders, hostile silhouettes, and deadly gravitational fields. This puzzle-platform game keeps you on your feet and requires you to accurately time your movements to perfection in order to survive. This game is more than a platformer: it is a very profound and absorbing experience!
Formats: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation4, Xbox One, and PC
Release date: 2018
Celeste, from the developers of Towerfall, is a platformer that balances challenging gameplay with an emotional narrative. Celeste follows the story of Madeline. She is a young girl who decides to face her mental health issues by climbing to the top of the mysterious Celeste Mountain. It is an inevitable classic that integrates jumps, air dashes, and climb controls into a brutal series of platform challenges!
Why Are indie games important?
AAA games have an ever-increasing presence in the gaming industry. This causes the market to be saturated with games that are commercially produced only to sell well. With bloated budgets, triple-A developers produce fewer titles overall. Because of the scarcity of mid-tier games nowadays, indie games are doing well to fill in this void. Also, Indie games are more reasonably priced and have more value for money. Hence, Indie games allow a greater amount of people to experience gaming. Indie games are also important because it is a form of art and allows indie developers to be creative. With an indie developer, the sky’s the limit, and when you have no limits, you can do things that larger studios are afraid to, or can’t afford to experiment with!